All posts by Emily Conron

NTD Awareness Week 2016: A Global Celebration of Progress in the Fight Against NTDs

END7 student supporters have had a busy spring! Between creative fundraising events, high-impact advocacy activities (including meetings with 39 members of Congress on the second annual END7 Student Advocacy Day!), and the launch of chapters at universities from Scotland to Ghana, our student community has been making a difference in communities around the world. Students kicked off this busy semester with the celebration of the first-ever global NTD Awareness Week from January 24-30 – ending on the fourth anniversary of the signing of the London Declaration on NTDs.

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Here are some highlights from the week from participating universities around the world:

Duke University (Durham, North Carolina, USA)

Duke University END7 Student Advisory Board representative John Lu is currently teaching a for-credit elective course on NTDs, and celebrated NTD Awareness Week on campus by inviting Justin Lana, a PhD candidate at Duke, to give a guest presentation on guinea worm to the class. Justin spent two years living in a tent in South Sudan working with the Carter Center on their Guinea worm eradication effort. He shared stories of his work while living there, and demonstrated to the class how exactly he, and those he supervised, went about from community to community to ensure that guinea worm transmission was interrupted. He even brought in a few of the actual water filters that were distributed to community members to stop transmission, and passed around a guinea worm in formaldehyde that he had smuggled into the U.S. The sample is one of just 300 remaining samples of guinea worm, which is nearing eradication (with just 22 human cases left in the world).

Georgetown University (Washington, D.C., USA)

Throughout NTD Awareness Week, Georgetown students actively promoted a petition to urge President Obama to increase funding for the USAID NTD Program in the last budget request of his presidency. END7 at Georgetown members helped deliver petition signatures across town to the White House at the end of Awareness Week!

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Glasgow University (Glasgow, Scotland)

To celebrate NTD Awareness Week, the newly-established GUEND7 Society organized a pub quiz trivia event that raised £177.05 ($250) for END7! 30 attendees had a great time answering trivia questions about NTDs and other topics. The winning team was awarded a prize of tea cakes and biscuits donated by a local merchant.

Glasgow University pub quiz winning prize

Northeastern University (Boston, Massachusetts, USA)

END7 at Northeastern celebrated NTD Awareness Week with a Dancing with the Stars fundraising event, bringing campus celebrities together with members of the Northeastern University Ballroom Dance Team to put on fun performances – and even offer a Bachata dance lesson to attendees!

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This creative event raised hundreds of dollars for NTD treatment – and was a whole lot of fun!

Nnamdi Azikiwe University (Awka, Nigeria)

Nnamdi Azikiwe University END7 Students Awareness Forum - NAUTH

Students at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, organized a training session for medical students to learn more about NTDs. The president of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka Medical Student Association (NAUMSA), John Chukwu, recorded this video explaining NTDs and the END7 campaign and rallying students to get involved in the NTD effort.

Watch the video
Nnamdi Asikiwe University video still

Rice University (Houston, Texas, USA)

END7 at Rice launched NTD Awareness Week with a Super Smash Bros video game tournament that brought students from across campus together to raise money to “smash NTDs” while competing to win their favorite game.

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After a busy week of advocacy and education activities on campus, they collaborated with the Rice Pre-Medical Society to make NTDs the topic of their Third Annual Medical Speakers Conference on January 30. Dr. Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute (home of END7), delivered the keynote address, “NTDs: The Global Diseases of War and Poverty” – and took a minute to pose with members of the END7 at Rice executive board at the event.

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Saint Mary’s University (Halifax, Canada)

Members of the just-launched SMU Voice for NTDs student society celebrated NTD Awareness Week with a fun Tropical Night fundraiser to spread the word about their new club and raise money for NTD treatment. The event featured a limbo competition, tropical photo booth, costume contest, and tropical refreshments – a perfect escape from the Halifax winter weather!

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Talk about putting the fun in fundraising!

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University of Sierra Leone (Freetown, Sierra Leone)

The leaders of END7 at the University of Sierra Leone College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS) organized several exciting events during NTD Awareness Week, beginning with a capacity building training for students to learn about the NTDs prevalent in Sierra Leone. The training was co-facilitated by Hellen Keller International, an NGO addressing NTDs in the country. END7 at USL president Ishmael Tamba Jalloh gave a presentation about END7 and NTD Awareness Week at the event.

USL training

Ishmael then appeared on the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Cooperation national television program, PODIUM, to raise awareness about NTDs and END7, and was interviewed on two radio stations to promote NTD Awareness Week. Listen to his interview on the “Good Morning Show” here.

USL Ishmael radio interview

In addition to educating students and citizens about NTDs, END7 at USL members got involved directly in the NTD control and elimination effort by visiting schools in a low-income area of Freetown to educate primary school students about the importance of washing their hands and participating in mass drug administration (MDA) campaigns to stay safe from NTDs.

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They also brought a water purification device to the school they visited to drive home their message!

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END7 at USL members celebrate a successful NTD Awareness Week by holding up 7 fingers for END7!

USL members

University of Texas at Austin (Austin, Texas, USA)

END7 at UT kicked off NTD Awareness Week by setting up a Bagels and Brochures table in a busy area of campus, handing out information about NTDs and pastries donated by a local Panera restaurant.

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Club members also wrote dozens of letters to President Obama urging him to increase funding for the USAID NTD Program in the last budget request of his presidency – mailing them to D.C. just in time for our petition delivery at the White House!

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We are so proud of END7 student supporters around the world who came together to raise awareness and funds to fight NTDs during the first-ever global NTD Awareness Week. The diversity of our student supporters and the events they organized is a testament to the global nature of the NTD control and elimination effort – and the power of partnership in fighting NTDs. Here’s to making NTD Awareness Week bigger and better in 2017!

END7 Student Leaders Speak Out on Capitol Hill for NTDs

Student Leaders on Capitol Hill

END7 student leaders on Capitol Hill

On March 1, student leaders gathered in Washington, D.C., for the second annual END7 Student Advocacy Day. The event brought together 40 students active in END7 programs, from 15 colleges and universities across the country for 39 meetings with Members of Congress and their staff.

The students traveled to our nation’s capital on planes, trains and buses from as far as Texas and Florida to urge their elected officials to maintain U.S. leadership in the fight against neglected tropical diseases by protecting and increasing the budget for the USAID NTD Program.

They met with congressional offices to discuss the devastating impact of NTDs and how USAID has successfully led global progress against these diseases for a decade. After briefing Congressional staff, students answered questions and requested an increase of the USAID NTD Program budget to $125 million. One student participant, medical student of the University of Central Florida, described her group’s approach:

“As a future physician, my main argument was that we need to care for all human beings, regardless of where they are from.  We have the solution and we need to use it. One student in my group, Beza Teferi, is originally from Ethiopia and has seen and experienced the effects of NTDs herself.  Another student, Imani Butler, was able to provide the perspective from a research point of view.  Her message was that we have a simple solution to these problems, so why not use them.”

Malvika Govil, a student from Rice University, discussed how the money allotted has a multiplier effect – for every dollar invested in treatment programs, pharmaceutical companies donate $26 worth of medicine. Finally, Sujay Dewan, from the University of Pennsylvania, delivered the request — an increase of the USAID NTD Program budget to $125 million to ensure that the last decade of progress continues and control and elimination efforts succeed.

END7 students are passionate advocates for the USAID NTD Program. The largest public-private partnership in USAID history, the NTD Program has leveraged more than $11.1 billion in donated drugs over the past decade. Yet, despite the clear impact of NTDs on health and development and the proven cost-effectiveness of treatment, President Obama’s FY 2017 budget proposal only allocated $86.5 million USAID NTD Program – a 13.5 percent cut in funding from the previous three years’ enacted level of $100 million.

Before their busy afternoon of meetings, students participated in a morning coffee with Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), co-chair of the Senate’s Malaria and NTD Caucus, and received a briefing in the Capitol from USAID, RTI International and Helen Keller International. Students then fanned out across Capitol Hill to meet with, in many cases, their own U.S. Senators or House members. The students were well received and numerous offices expressed an interest in supporting the NTD Program’s funding.

Spitzer reported that her group received positive feedback from Senator Lindsey Graham’s and Senator Marco Rubio’s staff and several offices asked for additional information and indicated they would oppose a proposed cut in funding to the USAID NTD Program.

At the end of the day, the students gathered for a closing reception with Barbara Bush, co-founder and CEO of Global Health Corps. Bush spoke movingly of her commitment to global health and developing the next generation of global health leaders.

Bush said, “It is critical that you continue to advocate and work for change by meeting with your representatives in Congress and amplifying your voice and the voices of other END7 supporters through petitions and op-eds. We have so much at our disposal to achieve great things, and we also have the possibility to reimagine leadership that can accomplish even more, including eliminating NTDs. This is exciting, even if it is a bit daunting. But I know, beyond a doubt, that we are up for the task.”

Neeraj Mistry, managing director of the Global Network, and Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, also shared remarks thanking students for their advocacy and urging them to continue the fight against NTDs.

Tayler McCord, a senior and secretary of END7 at Michigan State University, reflected:

“Attending Student Advocacy Day made me even more determined to help change the outlook for those affected by these debilitating diseases. This event not only allowed me to participate directly in this crucial political process but has also inspired me to continue to make my voice heard to our nation’s lawmakers. I am excited to share this passion with my peers at Michigan State and with members of our END7 chapter on campus. I hope to inspire and encourage others to participate in advocacy for NTD treatment to help make a positive difference in the lives of millions of people.”

We are so proud of our student advocates for delivering a powerful message on Capitol  Hill.

END7 Students Are Gearing Up for a Record-Breaking #GivingTuesday

Giving Tuesday banner_1We have a day for giving thanks. We have two for getting deals. Now we have Giving Tuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back, celebrated each year on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving in the United States (December 1 this year). Giving Tuesday was launched in 2012 by 92nd Street Y, a cultural center in New York City, to celebrate and encourage giving. Now in its fourth year, Giving Tuesday is a global celebration of giving, fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. In 2014, over 27,000 nonprofits in 68 countries participated in Giving Tuesday, raising over $46 million for social causes. Beyond dollars and cents, Giving Tuesday has become a social media phenomenon: in 2014, the hashtag #GivingTuesday was used 764,000 times and trended for 11 hours on Twitter, raising awareness of social causes.

Giving Tuesday collageIn 2014, END7 launched a Giving Tuesday student fundraising competition, netting $10,154 from 22 participating schools — enough to treat 20,000 children for seven NTDs. This year, as our student community has grown around the world, we’re setting our sights even higher, with a goal of raising $20,000 from dozens of schools worldwide. You can see the list of schools who have signed on to participate on our Giving Tuesday page, where you can choose a fundraising campaign to support on December 1.

To reach this ambitious goal, END7 students around the world will hold bake sales, email friends and family, post all over social media, and rally their classmates to support the fight against NTDs. The timing of this effort is ideal as END7 supporters reflect on all of the progress made in the fight against NTDs in 2015. In the past three months, the United Nations endorsed a goal to end the epidemic of NTDs as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (and moved forward with the inclusion of an indicator to measure progress), Mexico announced their official elimination of the NTD river blindness, and the Nobel Prize in Medicine was jointly awarded to scientists who developed drugs that have saved millions of lives from NTDs and malaria.

And while these milestones deserve to be celebrated, END7 student supporters know that we can’t rest while less than half of people needing NTD treatment are receiving it because of persistent funding gaps for NTD programs. The END7 campaign was launched as a way to give everyone a chance to contribute to the effort to end NTDs, with 100% of donations to our campaign used to support NTD treatment programs.

giving tuesday unselfieIf you are a student, teacher or university administrator who would like to join in our Giving Tuesday effort, sign up to fundraise on December 1 with an event or online fundraising page. Be sure to check out our resources: the Giving Tuesday action kit, a short webinar with fundraising tips and tricks from student leaders, and a Facebook album with inspiring images to share or set as your profile or cover photo. To spread the word, sign up for our Thunderclap or send us an END7 #unselfie (unselfish selfie!) with a sign explaining why you support END7 —we’ll post the best ones on Facebook!

We hope to have students around the world doing their part to fill the NTD funding gap on Giving Tuesday. If that goal isn’t motivation enough, we’ll be awarding fun prizes to the school with the highest fundraising total, the school that with the highest number of donors, and the school with the most creative promotion (time to snap those #unselfies!). Sign up to participate today!

Introducing Ishmael Tamba Jalloh, October’s END7 Student of the Month

sl_murraytown_chc.jpgEach month, END7 honors one student who has made a significant contribution to our growing movement of student advocates dedicated to seeing the end of NTDs. We are very proud to introduce our October 2015 Student of the Month, Ishmael Tamba Jalloh, a pharmacy student at the University of Sierra Leone College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences. Ishmael joined the END7 Campus Leaders Council to raise awareness of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in Sierra Leone by engaging students at his university in community engagement and outreach to local leaders.

As we reported while profiling Sierra Leone for our NTD Success Stories series last month, six NTDs are found in all 14 health districts in Sierra Leone, threatening nearly the entire population of the country. Strong leadership from Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health and in-country partners has helped drive tremendous progress against NTDs like lymphatic filariasis (LF), also known as elephantiasis. More than 57 million NTD treatments had been delivered nationwide by the beginning of 2014, putting the country on track to begin the World Health Organization process of verifying the elimination of lymphatic filariasis (LF) in eight of 14 health districts. Unfortunately, when the West African Ebola epidemic reached Sierra Leone in May 2014, all public health program activities were suspended — including mass drug administration (MDA) for NTDs.

One year later, with the Ebola epidemic receding, MDA restarted in Sierra Leone. Just this month, from October 9-13, the Ministry of Health’s NTD Program, through the District Health Management Team, ran an MDA campaign targeting 1.4 million people with drugs for LF and soil-transmitted helminths (STH). Ishmael volunteered to assist with the MDA, putting his pharmacy education at the service of his community. He shares:

“The mass drug administration campaign ran from October 9th to the 13th. Before the start of the campaign, there was a training for all the health workers and volunteers at the Murray Town Community Health Center [pictured above]. After the training, we were divided into pairs (a health worker and a volunteer) and sent to various communities in Ward 390, Constituency 111, in the western part of Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone.

“At the start of the drug administration, my team targeted a secondary school, the Sierra Leone Grammar School, in the Murray Town community. At the school, we administered albendazole and ivermectin as a prophylactic treatment for elephantiasis to 850 pupils and 50 teachers. For the remaining days of the MDA campaign, I worked in a slum community called Cockle. In that community, we targeted 1,500 residents for drug distribution.

sl_dosing.jpg“During the campaign, we used a measuring rod as a guide for the dosage we should give [pictured left]. If the individual’s height was at the 4th mark, we administered 4 tablets of ivermectin and a tablet of albendazole; if the individual’s height was at the 3rd mark, we administered 3 tablets of ivermectin and a tablet of albendazole, and so on with the second and first marks. This made it easy to give everyone the proper dose to keep them safe from elephantiasis.

“During the campaign, I found out that people are only aware of one out of the seven neglected tropical diseases — elephantiasis, which is called ‘Big Foot’ in our local language. Now, I am thinking that more work needs to be done about all of the NTDs in Sierra Leone.

“Also, during the campaign, I met an 18-year-old girl named Isatu who for the past two weeks has been developing signs of elephantiasis. Her family are saying her swollen legs are caused by witchcraft or black magic, but I advised them go to the hospital and have Isatu be tested for elephantiasis. I hope she receives the treatment she needs, and I am glad to have met her during the campaign.

“All in all, our campaign targeted 1.4 million people in Freetown. I hope my contribution to the campaign made a difference.”

Now, Ishamel is working to establish the first END7 chapter in Africa at the University of Sierra Leone. We are so grateful for Ishmael’s commitment to the fight against NTDs in Sierra Leone and around the world, and we are excited to see our community of student supporters like him grow. If you are ready to get your school involved in END7’s work, contact the END7’s student outreach coordinator at Emily.Conron@sabin.org to learn how you can get started!